Saturday, June 23, 2012

Cuban Coast Guard Burns Improvised Fishing Boats

Cuban Coast Guard Burns Improvised Fishing Boats
June 22, 2012
Yenisel Rodriguez Perez

HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban Coast Guard has burned hundreds of improvised
fishing boats of "informal fishermen." The ships' crews await the
arrival of nightfall to spot the luminous buoys of these fishermen and
then intercept them.

Many of the burned boats consisted of Styrofoam blocks reinforced with
wooden planks, contrived watercraft that enabled families to obtain
seafood that's so scarce in Cuba.

From this has been developing a silent confrontation between the
perseverance of the informal fishermen and the insensitivity and
authoritarianism of the maritime crews.

The incidents take place mainly in the waters off semi-urban communities
of the capital, especially those in areas off of East Havana. Every
night, hundreds of informal fishermen take to the sea to face the
dangers of the coastline, which include strong currents, shark attacks,
the possibility of having a fishing accident and mistreatment by the
authorities themselves.

With the passage of time, a fishing culture has been forming among these
individuals. In communities like Alamar, people's knowledge about
fishing using Styrofoam blocks has been established.

This is the principal circumstance that makes it so difficult for the
Coast Guard to eradicate or significantly diminish this type of fishing.

The Cuban government doesn't accept citizens freely accessing the riches
of the sea. They do not tolerate people engaged in this practice of
"autogestion" (self-managed initiative from below) for family survival,
since at the same time the state is responsible for the country's
precarious seafood market.

While I was visiting some friends in Alamar a few days ago, I saw from
afar and from the ninth floor window, an array of lights that looked
more like an alien invasion.

Julito, who was right behind me, explained that these lights were
luminescent buoys used by the fishermen of the neighborhood to attract
mackerel, a fish prized in contemporary Cuban culinary culture.

I was bowled over when after a few minutes, out of nowhere, there came a
huge flares that overshadowed the luminous buoys. I asked Julito if that
was a way of catching large fish.

Baffled as I watched the show, Julito shouted to his mother who was in
the kitchen washing the dishes:

"Mama! This guy is lucky as hell" — talking about me — "He ate the last
fillet that we're gonna see in this house for a long time."

It was mackerel.

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